KOMPONG SPEU PROVINCE – The U.S. and Cambodian air forces on Thursday carried out four simulated airdrops in Kompong Speu as part of the 2013 Pacific Airlift Rally, a biennial military airlift event involving 22 nations from the Asia-Pacific region.
U.S. Ambassador William Todd joined an eager crowd of servicemen and women, who had gathered in a muddy field under the sweltering morning sun to watch the main event of their five-day simulation exercise—the dispatch of four bundles of aid airdropped onto a target area in 5-minute intervals by U.S., Malaysian and Thai C-130 transport aircrafts.
“[Domestic crises such as flooding] can stretch the limits of a domestic emergency response, and this is where the international community can help,” Mr. Todd said, adding that the aim of the training exercise was to improve the ability of regional armed forces to deal with disaster relief and humanitarian assistance.
Lieutenant General Soun Samnang, chief of the Royal Cambodian Air Force, and Major General Russell Handy of the U.S. Pacific Air Force flew together in one of the U.S.’ C-130s, Mr. Todd said, as a symbolic gesture to showcase ongoing U.S.-Cambodian military cooperation.
Captain Justin Hauffe, a U.S. Air Force pilot based in Seoul who volunteered to help coordinate the Airlift Rally, said that the effectiveness of airdrops had been proven by recent humanitarian crises in Haiti, when the U.S. military was able to provide immediate food, water and medical supplies following a massive earthquake there in 2010.
Cambodia is particularly at risk of natural disasters. In November, it was ranked by Germanwatch, a Bonn-based environmental think tank, the country second-most affected by climate change.
In 2011, flooding killed 250 people, displaced thousands more and destroyed tens of thousands of hectares of rice paddy.
All four airdrops landed successfully within 30 meters of their intended target.
“What’s most impressive is the amount of nations involved in the logistics,” Capt. Hauffe said. The U.S. “is confident that with our partners we can overcome any disaster.”